This question is harder than I expected. There is the Sunday school answer, that Jesus died to save us from sin and death.
I hope this is true. I’m having trouble with it in my day to day my life. I seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. Those who have to live with me are well aware and have mostly learned to worked around them. There have been consequences but most people are gracious and forgiving or else they keep their distance. I’m also very limited, though I’m not sure that is the same thing. It’s possible Jesus could eventually save me from these sins, but I’ve mostly tried to learn how to work with more compassion within them. This kind of living in sin doesn’t seem to be that scriptural, but it’s the only way I know how to get up in the morning, to live with my regrets and to face a future knowing more mistakes are coming.
I know I’m going to die. It could be soon, but it feels like I’m going to live forever. My dad’s death is the closest thing to it I’ve come, almost seven years ago now. It was a pretty close encounter. At the time, my dad was living in a group home. Previously he had suffered from a pretty serious stroke, had spent weeks in a nursing home trying to recover before graduating to a group home. I still had hopes he was immortal, thinking he would eventually recover to where he was before. He made progress, but there were a lot of setbacks, repeated trips to the emergency room. He broke a hip, he required a pacemaker. I was the decision maker everytime, or more accurately, they made me think so, couching my decision within a framework where he either would die or they would intervene.
When he finally collapsed for the final time in the group home, I was the first one called. I rushed to the hospital and found his lifeless body in the hospital bed surrounded by doctors trying to resuscitate him. I held his hand for a moment before telling the doctors it was ok to stop trying. These years later, he still feels very much like my dad. I still remember his deep love he expressed in a number of ways when he raised me. That love very much is present now. I hope I’ll see him again but I can’t even fathom what that would be like now, his dead body decayed in the earth.
What’s front and center for me right now, isn’t sin or death, it’s connection and belonging. I think more about my mom now than my dad. She lives alone, with few friends but a very caring ward. I’m her only close relative nearby. I know she feels lonely often. She calls me often, usually confirming when I’ll be there again. It seems like loneliness is often the biggest challenge of old age.
Or maybe of any age.
I think most people just want to be heard, understood, loved and cared for. They want to feel like they belong and have a purpose in their life. The saddest times in my life were always those times when I felt disconnected, lost or alone. My biggest worry now is that I’ll be disconnected, cast out, forgotten and left alone.
What does this have to do with the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Jesus was born in a cave, grew up obscure and uneducated and disconnected from power. His ministry focused on those even more marginalized then him – the sinners, the affirmed, the sick, and the poor. When he lost his temper, it was always toward the powerful. His central message was love, a kind of love so radical that it extended even to his enemies, even, in his case, to the people who were crucifying him.
I think this is the good news of Jesus of Nazareth. This is something I can sink my teeth into in my day to day life- that we are loved, that we belong, that we matter, irrespective of accomplishments, positions, or talents And that as I try to live the good news, it is my job to help others feel like they belong as well. And truly embodying the good news means I should frame everything I do into helping others feel this deeply, either directly or indirectly.